Football: Stuttgart fear Wilkinson's air force

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The Independent Online
HOWARD WILKINSON contemplated the perennial paradox with a wry smile. Armed with the best target man in the Premier League, Leeds United will seek to prove that English clubs can continue to terrorise Europe with weaponry long since condemned as obsolete at international level.

Wilkinson, formerly manager of the England B and Under-21 sides, knows better than most that an obsession with the tall centre-forward, and the high cross to him, has seen the national team lose ground, and prestige, in recent years, but the need for something more sophisticated on the international stage will not deter him from using Lee Chapman as the focus for the traditional aerial assault on Stuttgart's defences tomorrow.

Coaches like Spain's Javier Clemente may scorn England's simplistic approach, but the respect English clubs still enjoy, regardless of any shortcomings in technique, is reflected in the apprehensions Christoph Daum, the Stuttgart manager, takes into this first- round match.

Daum's team lost 2-1 to Leeds in the pre-season Makita tournament, and a visit to Elland Road on Sunday, for their 1-1 draw with Aston Villa, served only to reinforce his high opinion of Wilkinson's champions.

The former Cologne midfielder, who played against Nottingham Forest in this competition in 1979, said: 'Chapman is my headache - especially his power in the air. I just don't have a player to deal with him.'

Kidology? Perhaps not, given the evidence of the Makita match, and a disappointing start to the season which saw Stuttgart removed from the German cup at the weekend by Hansa Rostock of the Second Division.

Daum felt the continued absence of Rod Wallace, still troubled by a hamstring injury, might work to Leeds' advantage. 'Without him, they play a more direct game, which does not suit us.'

Wilkinson is playing down the ambassadorial nature of Leeds' mission. Yes, he said, English football was probably in need of a lift after last week's events in Santander, but that was not his responsibility.

He was 'keen to win in a way that justified the result', but what was happening to the national game was 'not a lot' to do with him. 'I'm not the mother and father of all talent,' he said, with a dismissive shrug.

True, but he will have sired a very wealthy brood if Leeds progressed to the mini-league stage of the tournament.

Nigel Pleasants, their company secretary, estimates that getting through the first two rounds alone will be worth pounds 3m. The eight teams who qualify for the two mini- leagues are guaranteed an initial payment of pounds 800,000 plus pounds 186,000 for each of the 12 points available in the round robin.

Bill Fotherby, Leeds' managing director, who is here to finalise a multi-million-pound sponsorship with a German company, revealed that he had sold the TV rights to the first round for pounds 800,000. By his reckoning, the club would bank pounds 5.5m if Wilkinson's team were to emulate Jimmy Armfield's class of '75 by reaching the final.

Amid all the rubbing of hands, a cautionary note was sounded by Les Walker, the Football Association's security expert, who is worried about the imminent arrival of a rogue group of 120 Leeds fans, who have travelled separately from the supervised party of 1200, and contrary to the club's wishes.

'There are people coming we don't want to come,' he said. 'The Germans are concerned about Leeds' past reputation, and they don't like it.'

There were also fears, Walker added, that the neo-Nazi organisations who have been causing civil unrest in Germany since reunification, might focus on the match and seek confrontation with the visiting supporters.

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